LAS VEGAS – Joel Eriksson Ek was behind plenty of goal celebrations this year during his breakout performance as the Wild's newest No.1 center.
But none of those finishes in the regular season unleashed a reaction like the one the Wild had on Sunday afternoon in its playoff opener.
A beaming Eriksson Ek was engulfed by teammates that were grinning and jumping up and down after he scored in overtime to seal a 1-0 win for the Wild in front of an announced 8,683 at T-Mobile Arena and seize a 1-0 lead over the Golden Knights in the best-of-seven series.
"Probably the most excitement you're going to see out of him," coach Dean Evason said. "Obviously, it was a big moment, but he does everything for us — does absolutely everything. Obviously, great to get rewarded."
The goal, like the setup, was quintessential for Eriksson Ek and his line with Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno.
After Foligno pressured Vegas' Alex Pietrangelo into a poor clearing attempt, Greenway scooped up the puck, dished to the front where Foligno clipped the pass to a waiting Eriksson Ek. His shot from his workshop between the circles caromed off defenseman Alec Martinez's skate and flew five-hole on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 3 minutes, 20 seconds for Eriksson Ek's first career overtime goal and the Wild's first playoff victory in overtime since April 22, 2016, at Dallas.
"Just playing with each other for a long time, you get a sense of where the puck is gonna end up," said Eriksson Ek, who now has 20 goals this year after scoring a career-high 19 in the regular season "You just try to get to that spot and the puck bounced out there and just tried to get it off as quick as possible."
That goal was enough to shake off Vegas and wrestle away home-ice advantage in the first-round matchup because Wild goalie Cam Talbot was perfect, stopping all 42 shots he faced for his fifth career shutout and the sixth postseason shutout for the Wild.
Only one goalie in NHL history (Curtis Joseph) has pitched a shutout in the postseason with more teams (four) than Talbot, who's now accomplished the feat with the Wild, Flames and Oilers.
In front of him, the Wild dished out a franchise-record 71 of the 128 total hits in a slugfest that also included 23 blocked shots by the Wild and three penalty kills. The Wild went 0-for-2 on the power play, including one in overtime.
"Anytime you're out there sacrificing the body, that's what it takes to win at this time of the year," said Talbot, who was clutch early when the Golden Knights were in control.
Vegas had 19 shots in the first period and finished with 38 shot attempts overall; the Wild, meanwhile, tested goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just five times.
"Talbs carried us on his back in the first period," Eriksson Ek said. "They came out hard, and we held on."
That lopsided edge, however, disappeared in the second as the Wild picked up the pressure, executing smoother exits out of its zone and forcing Fleury to flash his glove a handful of times.
Ryan Hartman, in particular, was foiled by Fleury's glove hand; Hartman had five shots, including two off breakaways and a close call on a one-timer, but Fleury got in the way of every try.
Fleury was even effective when his glove was behind his back, like it was when he stretched out to get a piece of a Kirill Kaprizov shot after the rookie split the Golden Knights defense in the third period.
"He likes that glove, for sure," Hartman said of Fleury, who racked up 29 saves. "We seem to keep shooting there, especially myself. He almost baits you into going there sometimes."
Despite the missed chances by the Wild, the team seemed unfazed by the stalemate. Actually, 0-0 hockey seemed to suit it. While Vegas was juggling its lines, the Wild kept rolling its four – a patience that ultimately panned out when Eriksson Ek added another highlight in an already impressive season.
"A lot of the things that he does, it goes unrecognized," Greenway said. "But when you play on his line, it's very noticeable and it's just nice now to see that he's getting the credit that he deserves."